Thursday, August 22, 2013

Should You Use IKEA for Your Kitchen Remodel?

In it's current Cost vs. Value report, Remodeling Magazine reports major kitchen remodels rank near the top of home improvement projects whose cost results in a value return at resale time. It comes in at nearly 69%, which is pretty good. But kitchen remodels present two problems for homeowners. Cost is the first, since they can be expensive. Second is having to deal with contractors.

What about using IKEA?

Having remodeled several kitchesn over the years, having been a real estate broker and having been a contractor, I can fairly state that kitchen remodel projects nearly always run over the budgeted amount, usually by a lot, and finish up far later than intended. That's usually because of what's euphemistically called "communication issues" between owner and contractor.
We didn't agree to do that! Or did we?

With construction of a new custom home, an architect-engineer will draw plans. Plans don't just show how the building looks. They contain all specifications and materials to be used. Where an owner sees "new window," for example, the architect sees the brand, the U-value, the frame, the flashing and everything else, right down to the size of the screws and washers. There's very little ambiguity in the cost.

Not so with a remodel, which rarely have detailed plans and specifications leading into a formal Scope of Work both sides understand. Owners pretty much find a contractor they trust and go for it. Problems can result, such as the new 30-inch range the owner selected not fitting into the hole that housed the old range, and expensive finished carpentry is required to make it look acceptable.

Custom Cherry Cabinets
What about using IKEA?

One of the raps on IKEA alludes to quality: If its products are so inexpensive, then the quality isn't top flight. To a degree, that may be true, if subjective. IKEA kitchen cabinets are not as high-quality as the solid-wood cabinets people get in a traditional remodel.
IKEA Millennial Kitchen

But I have to say, IKEA cabinets can look pretty good and the quality is fine. And with a total cost more than fifty percent less than a traditional remodel, it's kitchens are worth a serious look.

IKEA's kitchen cabinet doors are solid wood. The insides--the cabinet boxes--have a melamine-like veneer covering the MDF (medium-density fibreboard) box. Many purists prefer solid wood over MDF, although the data doesn't prove this preference.

The clincher is that IKEA offers a twenty-five-year limited warranty on its cabinets. For many--including me on our most recent remodel--that takes care of the quality issue.

IKEA also has free, in-store kitchen design consultants to help you with the company's fun-to-use online design program. If you don't feel comfortable designing yourself, or if you just don't have time, in-home help is available for a modest fee. The designer comes to your home and you walk one another through the whole remodel, cabinet-by cabinet, fixture by fixture. The advantage, here, is that the designer can solve problems of new stuff fitting in old spaces--a big issue in older homes. And you get both two- and three-dimensional drawings with written specifications when the design is finished.

Don't want to assemble the cabinets yourself? IKEA has an outside contractor for that as well--reasonably priced and extremely efficient, in our experience.

IKEA has been using Whirlpool kitchen appliances. They aren't top-of-the-line, but they're well-rated in Consumer Reports. And you can get just about any kind of counter tops from laminate to butcher block to granite through IKEA's preferred vendors.

Since most of the product cost of IKEA cabinets is in the boxes, you can change the entire look of your kitchen when you get tired of it. With boxes all being the same size, it's easy--and inexpensive--to switch from, say, Euro Contemporary to Pottery Barn white.

For a huge big-box store, IKEA's customer service is outstanding. No one ever tries to upsell you on anything, and their staff treats all problems very seriously. We had some issues with the counter top supplier--not even IKEA's stuff--and our IKEA consultant was right there to solve the issues. Returns are a piece of cake.

I promise I'm not a shill for IKEA. Not everything it has is great, and I'm sure others have had problems that we did not experience. But for kitchens, both new homeowners and older ones need to give IKEA a long, hard look. The communication and cost-overrun issues just fall by the wayside.

By the way, their cabinets are 20% off twice a year, so be sure to buy during sale periods.